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The St. Ignatius Volunteer Fire Department chief submitted his letter of resignation to city officials Tuesday, one day after his wife was charged with embezzling nearly $60,000 from the department's auxiliary

Now-former fire chief Jeremiah Morigeau declined to comment when reached by the Missoulian on Wednesday.

Assistant fire boss Reese Bailey told the Missoulian Wednesday he will step in as acting chief until the mayor can make an official appointment at next week's City Council meeting.

Morigeau's resignation comes after his wife, Annie Morigeau, was booked into the Lake County jail on $50,000 bond. She has since been released.

Auxiliary officials uncovered nearly $60,000 in expenses not justified for the fire department's use from December 2016 through last May, Lake County prosecutors said Monday. In some instances, Morigeau allegedly used the signature of a former treasurer to cash donation checks, but did not deposit those donations into the auxiliary account. 

The funds allegedly embezzled were solely handled by the auxiliary. Tax dollars from the city and county, which are directly deposited into the fire department's account, were not subject to the alleged scheme, Bailey said this week.

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Annie Morigeau is also a sitting member of the St. Ignatius City Council, elected to the seat in 2017. St. Ignatius Mayor Steve McCollum could not be reached by phone for comment. City Attorney Molly Owen said Tuesday that Annie Morigeau could retain her seat while the case is ongoing.

As summer conditions dry out the Mission Valley countryside, Bailey said the department, made up of about 15 firefighters with Jeremiah Morigeau's resignation, will carry on as fire season ramps up.

"We've got a good, close group," he said. "This obviously is a loss, losing 'Miah as chief. However, we're ready for this fire season."

The St. Ignatius City Council meets on Aug. 6, where the new chief will be appointed to fill the vacancy.

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